SpaceX will fly two private citizens around the moon in 2018
We’ve all seen that big white marshmallow in the sky at night. Many have dreamed visiting the white marshmallow (aka the moon). Well start packing your bags because next year SpaceX will be flying two private citizens on an extraordinary trip around the moon. Announced earlier this year, SpaceX plans on using it’s big Falcon Heavy rocket to take two lucky passengers into space on the week long trip. The two passengers, have “already paid a significant deposit” for the cost of the mission. Unfortunately, there won’t be a whole lot of space in the Dragon 2 spacecraft, so say goodbye to practicing Kung Fu in space.
According to Elon Musk, the two passengers will be the only ones on board. The spacecraft will travel through space, skim just the surface of the moon, go out further into deep space, and then loop all the way back to Earth. Distance wise, it will to be around 500,000-650,000 kilometers (or 300,000 to 400,000 miles). For comparison, the distance from Earth to the moon is about 384,400 km (238,855 miles) depending on the path. You can fit 30 Earths in between the Earth and the moon!
SpaceX plans on using brand new Falcon Heavy and Dragon 2 capsule. The Falcon Heavy rocket will begin testing late this summer with the Dragon 2 capsule testing to begin in November.
The Dragon 2 spacecraft will be fully autonomous since there will be only two private citizens on board. However, there is a high chance that the trip will involve a midcourse correction to keep the spacecraft going in the right direction. The passengers will probably just be sitting there and waiting since it will take 2 to 3 days to get to the moon. Imagine the views and selfies! The selfies will truly be out of this world.
Although the Dragon 2 spacecraft will be autonomous, the passengers will be trained to handle emergency procedures should something go wrong.
The trip and beyond
It is uncertain how many orbits the spacecraft will make around the moon. It will depend on the amount of fuel available.
We do know that the most challenging phase (besides launch) of the trip will be the re-entry. When the spacecraft begins to fly into the Earth’s atmosphere, a heat shield will keep the two passengers from getting toasted.
There are two ways that the Dragon 2 capsule can land on Earth: on land or splashing into the ocean. According to SpaceX, the Dragon 2 capsule can land anywhere in the world. It is most likely that a water landing will take place since roughly 70% of the Earth is water.
SpaceX is currently planning on making its first crewed flights to ISS mid-2018 for NASA astronauts. This means that NASA will approve the Falcon Heavy and Dragon capsule for space travel before any moon missions take place. The rocket and capsule will also undergo FAA evaluation process for the moon flight.
If everything goes according to plan, this space mission will be historic. This will be the first time any person will have visited the moon since 1972! In addition, it will be the first time a private spaceflight company has sent people to outer space.
This is a big step in space travel/tourism. If successful, space travel cost could come way down, allowing more citizens to travel to outer space.